In February 2012, an estimated 1,000 nurses and student nurses rallied outside the Alabama Capitol Building to draw attention to issues facing the state’s healthcare system, particularly a worrying shortage of registered nurses.
Alabama could have a shortfall of more than 8,200 RNs by 2030, according to a January 2012 article in the American Journal of Medical Quality. “RN demand continues to outstrip RN supply, creating an unprecedented shortage of RNs in the United States,” the authors noted.
There were an estimated 45,400 RNs working in Alabama in 2011, earning an average annual salary of $57,840, according to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations. RNs nationwide earned an average salary of $64,690 in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.
Among occupations classified as “high-demand” by the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations, registered nurse is projected to have the most openings through 2018, with about 1,500 annually. The Alabama Nurses Foundation, which seeks to boost public knowledge and understanding of nursing, lists the “impending critical shortage of hospital-based nurses” as one of its priorities.
Alabama’s situation is not unique: Nationally, the employment rate for RNs is expected to increase 26% between 2010 and 2020, the BLS reported.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has cited several reasons for the RN shortage, including: an aging population; federal legislation that will provide healthcare coverage to millions of additional Americans; and a rising number of RNs hitting retirement age in coming years.
Similar factors are present in Alabama:
In addition to the state’s aging population, a 2010 report by the Alabama Department of Senior Services concluded that more residents are battling chronic health conditions. Alabama ranked second in the nation in 2009 for adults who were overweight or obese, which can lead to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
“Alabama is currently in an overweight and obesity epidemic regarding its citizens’ health,” the report noted.
Increasing complexity in both medical technology and professional regulations means it’s likely that healthcare providers will seek nurses with advanced educational qualifications.
In a 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that 80% of nurses nationally should have bachelor’s degrees by 2020. The institute also noted that RN to BSN degree programs and online learning are tools to help reach that benchmark.
In order to apply for licensure as a registered nurse in Alabama, candidates must have graduated from an RN program approved by the state nursing board and have passed the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
For RNs who are licensed in another state, the Alabama Board of Nursing offers licensure by endorsement. Applicants must have graduated from an accredited nursing program and submit 24 contact hours of continuing education (CE). If the state in which the applicant was licensed does not require CE hours, applicants can request a temporary permit in Alabama in order to practice while they earn the CE hours.
Over the course of each two-year license renewal period, RNs must earn 24 CE hours from nursing board-approved or board-recognized providers. During the first renewal, four of the CE hours must be related to the nursing board’s functions, the state’s Nurse Practice Act, professional conduct, accountability and regulations.
It’s important to note that nursing licensure requirements and fees can change. For the most up-to-date information contact the Alabama Board of Nursing at:
Mailing address: P.O. Box 303900, Montgomery AL 36130-3900
Phone: (334) 293-5200 or (800) 656-5318